AT&T One X

HTC and AT&T have pushed out an OTA update for the One X today, and while it provides the standard bug fixes and security enhancements, it brings a new feature to address the menu button "issue." Previously, if you were running an application that wasn't updated to support the latest Android style guidelines, you'd have a full-width black bar about 48 pixels high that held an on-screen menu button. It was horrible to look at, and we hoped that Android application developers would soon update their apps to get rid of it. We can't knock HTC, they used the correct layout for their capacitive buttons (we do question why they went with capacitive buttons in the first place, though) and did what they were supposed to do. But it was still pretty darn ugly.

Then along comes Samsung, with a menu button on what will probably turn out to be the most popular Android phone ever in the Galaxy S 3. They shouldn't have done it (according to the Android developer team's way of doing things), but they did. A quick look at the HTC One X tells us why -- that big, ugly, black bar. 

Of course, application developers don't have to update to make their app look good on the phone that is selling the most, so very few did. Love it or hate it, time saved is money saved, so the folks at Twitter or Facebook (as well as smaller development teams) just let it ride. It became an HTC problem instead of an application problem.

HTC had to fix it themselves. Never mind the fact that they were only following guidelines, their phones look bad running an app that needs a menu button and Samsung's don't. We saw a bit of it in the Desire C, and we're pretty sure we heard Android hacker/developer/guru Paul O'Brien mention that it was coming. 

It's here now, at least on the AT&T One X. Filed under Settings > Display, gestures and buttons is an entry where users can choose how they want the multi-tasking button to work. It can work as normal, or have a second function if you long-press. Phil's been playing around with it, and he says the best and most natural way it to have a single tap bring up the menu, and a long-press open the multi-tasking view -- just like Samsung's Galaxy S 3

We would prefer that developers just use the action bar on their apps as instructed. Hopefully, new apps will be written that way and eventually this whole mess goes away. Until then, at least we have a way to get rid of the black menu bar. We expect to see a similar fix roll out for the rest of the HTC One series of phones, and for hackers to grab some code and do the same in custom ROMs until then. For now, enjoy your 48 pixels of freedom.


Reader comments

HTC's fix for the 'menu button issue' is welcome, but not very elegant


"We expect to see a similar fix roll out for the rest of the HTC One series of phones"

It's already present in the HTC One S with the 2.21.401.10 OTA update released two weeks ago

The menu and back buttons on the phone are so faint when not back-lit, that they could be de-provisioned when Jelly Bean comes along and you wont even be able to tell they are there. I think Samsung did this on purpose, knowing they wouldn't have JB for a while they put the menu and back buttons on there to make it work well with ICS. When JB comes along, they just write into the kernel that the backlight on the menu and back buttons are never to be turned on. The home button could be turned off or left alone (its functionality is somewhat asynchronous to menu/back.)

Yes, Samsung thought this all the way through and DID have it right all along.

Really, Jerry! I mean, we get how it was SUPPOSED to work, but having a real-world solution and giving the users a *CHOICE* is a great thing! You can keep YOUR Evo LTE & One X set to not having a menu button and enjoy the black area robbing your screen.... but as soon as I get updated, I am turning on this option in a heartbeat.

Thank you HTC! It took you LONG ENOUGH to give us this option, but at least you came through. Look forward to this pushing through to the non-AT&T One X's and the Evo LTE.

Now you just need to fix the "broken" multitasking/memory/task management and we will be very happy...

Instead of fussing, and crying over a manufacturer's 'mistake', how about you be grateful they even pushed out an update. You'd be surprised at the amount of careful planning and such goes into these updates, as it's not like a developer with one device saying "Hmmm...looks like I messed up on the coding and script a little bit here. I'm just going to edit this, and then re-flash the software."

HTC has to worry about how to squeeze such an update to it's MILLIONS of customers, because simply, not everyone is going to know how/want to "re-flash" stock firmware onto their devices.

The SGS3 outsold the One X, so who do you think application developers are going to put their money towards? A larger customer base in the SGS3, or the lesser customer base in the One X?

True- but they are not. So giving users the choice to get rid of that abomination called the "menu bar" is a great move. People who want to continue to operate on "shoulda coulda" can keep the default behavior if they desire.

1. Not all apps are updated to 3.x< APIs
2. There ton of old forgoten apps that not being updated anymore and probably never will be.
3. As long 2.3 dominates with 60% user base, developers won't have easy use of action bar, pushing them to use old menu bar.
4. Google didn't set any rule to not use menu button, just said its "not recommended"

This exactly. Plus, Google just assumes that every vendor has a 0 day turnaround on hardware changes. Woah, Google announced that menu/back are not to be put on handsets any more... Stop the production lines! Get out the black electrical tape! We will correct all these millions of phones we produced before Google had this bright ******* idea to change their screen layout AGAIN!

I hope with this update, comes the fix for the Tasks app not pulling the correct date from Google Task, its always 1 day behind. As well as duplicating the task in its Calendar app every time you edit it.

Think they've messed up with the menu UI: Consistency is everything.

The story used to be "Press the menu button to bring up a menu of things you can do outside of the current activity flow."

Now it reads "Sometime your app will show a small set of things you can do outside of the current activity flow, which will distract you from the things you'd expect it to do, but will often show ... if there are more than will fit and then you can click the ... menu button to see these extra ones which aren't part of what you're doing but just in case y'know; but it won't work on older devices, nor will newer devices be able to show the menus from older software. And some new devices work like old devices." Confused? Me too. Home Menu Back = good design.

Action bar is good ;] You got actions and if you want more you press overflow button. Thing is it's hard to implement it with 70% userbase not supporting it direcly. Hopefully pomised inclusion of action bar to support libery will fix that problem.

btw Action bar detects menu button it does not show overflow menu and set it as menu button function, developer does not need to do anything here, user don't even see much diffrence from old Androiod version.

I think it is rediculous that HTC had to do this. I have developed one app and published it. It is one fricking line of code in the Manifest. Seriously, those developers need to quit being lazy and take 3 minutes to update their apps.

Too bad the configuration I have on my rooted EVO 4G LTE isn't an option: Recent Apps button brings up the menu, long press Home brings up recent apps (like on every pre-ICS device).

Now if only Samsung could do the same with the Galaxy S3. I would love to swap the Menu button for multitask function and long press = menu.

HTC did the right thing here imo, too bad it took them so long to implement it.

GUIDELINES are GUIDELINES....HTC followed them SAMSUNG didn't and now HTC is paying for it. I'd still pick the OneX any day of the week over TouchWiz.

HTC is doing it mostly right. Samsung is doing it wrong. Facebook is doing it wrong. Most guys are doing it wrong, other than maybe HTC, Motorola and Huawei (and of course Google). C'mon guys (manufacturers and developers), although it's open Android, if you're using Android, please do it the Google way, or at least something similar.

Nice, this update should be pushing out a bit after the HTC EVO LTE 3D is released, just like ICS was just released on the 3D.

I highly disagree with your hit against the GS3 for using the menu button. It was clear before that GS3 was out that apps were NOT being updated quickly to support the new integrated menu. I had the Evo LTE for 4 weeks and returned it because almost non of the apps were updated or hinted at ever being updated. Samsung either had to follow the Google model and include the bottom buttons in the screen like the Nexus, or have a dedicated menu button. There have been quite a few people that don't like the integrated menu buttons and a great deal of Samsung's 'average' customers would not like it. Hence, they went to the dedicated menu button because of a lack of options. And after using the Evo LTE for a month and returning it for the GS3, I'm so glad they did. I use the menu button a great deal anyway and even when it is correctly implemented in an app, it is never in the same place prompting confusion.

Personally, I think this is the best solution by far...

With the Galaxy Nexus you're constantly giving up screen space for the buttons. Oh sure, there are a handful of stock apps that can hide them but the vast majority of apps don't do so. What's more, even if an app does hide the buttons to utilize the full display that can still be a negative, how do you quickly back out of a game to answer a text with no home button?

Now, if the GNex were physically smaller than the One X then at least there'd be an advantage to on screen buttons, but instead you just get more empty bezel around the display. If and when we get physically smaller 4.5/4.6" phones then I might see the value of on screen buttons.

The Galaxy S is just breaking the guidelines and it's gonna look pretty out of place when developers get on board with eliminating the menu button. Besides, the quick one button no-wait app is one of the greatest things about ICS and Samsung threw it out the window in favor of a long press physical button... It's really quaint in the way it emulates Apple's poor multi tasking.

HTC has it's own multitasking issues, plural, there's the over aggressive memory management and the funky WebOS style card menu for app switching... I'm really hoping they drop that for Jelly Bean, it's the only part of Sense 4.0 that stays too far from stock Android (UI-wise).

For those that don't mind tinkering or root, there's custom ROMs that address both these things by vastly improving memory management and also allowing you to revert to the AOSP app switching menu, Viper ROM's the easiest to configure just how you want IMO.

As far as the menu button, giving people a choice is totally the way to go IMO. I dunno why anyone would prefer a locked in option (Samsung) rather than the choice to have it set however you want.

$20 says if manufacturers are still using capacitive buttons next year at least a few of them will make them configurable as HTC just did.